INTERVIEW: Director Shae Sterling Brings Visitors To Earth In Alien Addiction

Aliens land in New Zealand, but they aren’t out for world domination in Alien Addiction, a science fiction-comedy film from Shae Sterling (High Octane: Detonate) and starring Jimi Jackson (The Australiana Hostel).

Riko (Jimi Jackson) is an aimless 20-something in a group of aimless 20-somethings played by Tane Huata, Tukairangi Maxwell, and Harry Summerfield. The slacker foursome spends their days playing the boardgames “Galaxy Gods” then racing to the local pub for a drink and possibly a hook up with a backpacking traveler. Two visitors from outer space arrive in the small, rural area of New Zealand, searching for their next high, and chaos ensues.

PopAxiom and Shae spoke about falling in love with movies, remakes, and making Alien Addiction.

Inventive Nature

Shae Sterling is from New Zealand, where he’s spent years directing music videos for Sheila E, T-Boz (of TLC fame), and Snoop Dogg. “I was a big fan of films when I was young. I’d get home from school and watch things on VHS. I took to Star Wars and Spielberg movies. I’d watch them over and over again until I knew them line-for-line.”

The director-to-be says, “I got my hands on a video camera when I was young, around 10. Back then, no one had one; this was in the 80s. So, I got to dabble a bit. By the time I was fifteen, I’d done a little media stuff in school, and I decided to be a director.”

“The rest is history,” Shae adds.

“For how small the county is, we have an amazing film industry,” Shae says about New Zealand, which has produced Peter Jackson, Taika Waititi, and Jermaine Clement, to name a few. “We’ve got James Cameron filming Avatar and the Lord of the Rings TV series going on down here.”

Shae shares a moment when indie filmmaking met blockbuster budget filmmaking. “I’m down at the lighting shop renting some lights, and in comes some dude with an Avatar TV shirt asking if the lights in the shop are waterproof.”

New Zealand consistently produces film and television that is quirky, eccentric, but also down to earth, funny, and full of the feels. “We have a backyard humor with an inventive nature.”

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About Alien Addiction

Alien Addiction is a low-budget film though it doesn’t look it with cinematography that is lush and vibrant. “We used the strengths of the film; the actors, dialogue, and the quite feel.”

“I think if I’d spent money on better cameras,” Shae says, “then the FX, it wouldn’t have that retro-y humbleness. It’s not trying to impress you all the time; it’s just letting you get into the story.”

Shae used a Panasonic GH4 to get Alien Addiction done. It’s not the usual camera used today by most movie productions. “I could’ve had a better camera, but I wanted it to have a unique look. Everything these days they shoot on ARRI Alexa or RED, and it’s all starting to look the same to me.”

“I went with my guns,” Shae proclaims, “and used something that has a different look to it. If everything looks the same, then what are we doing here?”

Shae was busy trying to get another movie made before Alien Addiction was a neuron firing in his brain. “I had another movie I was trying to get done before this and wasted a year of my life trying to get that going. I was pretty upset having to put that on the shelf.”

However, unfortunate events turn into new opportunities. “I had the idea for the Alien Addiction movie and decided I was going to fund the thing myself. Teaming up with Jimi Jackson was great; he was someone I could trust, and he was invested in the project.”

The first step to funding Alien Addiction started with Kickstart, which “failed,” according to Shae. “So, I said, screw this, and got some cash on my own, and I decided to do one block of filming, which is about two weeks. We got about 40 percent of the movie, but it took ages to get to the next block. I had to keep doing it for three years before I got it done.”

Filmmaking is never an easy process, “but it was heaps of fun when we were out there filming. So many good times. The best part about it was escaping from our everyday lives.”

“We shot it outside of Auckland,” Shae shares, “in a small area, so we’d be there for a week and focusing on this movie.”

Jimi Jackson is one of those force of nature type comedic talents. “He was so good. I wrote scenes knowing he could improvise as well. I’d suggest a few things, and then he’d go off and adlib and improv. He’s so good at it; he’s got a quick wit. The same with Thomas Sainsbury.”

“About 70 percent of the film is the script,” Shae says, “and the rest is the room we played with. The scene where Jimi’s teaching them to play rugby is all Jimi.”

Making Aliens

Alien Addiction features two oddball aliens making their way around New Zealand searching for their particular type of mood-enhancing chemicals. “We were auditioning people, and my partner Melanie Price was helping me. She’d play a pretend alien, and we’d get all these dancers to come in and do different movements.”

It wasn’t quite working for Shae. “I realized my partner was good at it.” So, Melanie Price became one of the aliens, along with Steven Samuel Johnston. “At the time, Mel was pregnant, and we needed to start filming. By the time we started, she had a big belly, so we introduced that to the aliens. So, she’s pregnant in some of those scenes.”

The pot-bellied extraterrestrials were born, and so was Mel’s child, making the natural belly disappear. “She had the baby then used a specially made pillow device.”

The design of the aliens is equal parts charming and spooky. “I realized I’m not going to have the money to do a moving mouth. So, I did this tiny little mouth.”

The aliens also have a funny walk, which seems unlikely to keep up with the average person’s walking speed. “Yeah, I always tried to stage them ahead of people. They couldn’t keep up.”

Shae loves his aliens. “They’re kind of ugly looking but still kind of cool.”

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Wrapping Up

Shae grew up on a healthy diet of Spielberg, Lucas, Cronenberg, and other directors of the 70s and 80s. He names a few of his favorite filmmakers. “I do like some of Roman Polanski’s stuff; Paul Verhoeven, Christopher Nolan, James Cameron, and Ridley Scott.”

It’s the era of remakes, but Shae says, “I’m not a big fan of remakes. It’s annoying. Surely there are more new stories.” So, Shae isn’t fond of remaking movies, but says, “There are sequels to movies that weren’t so great. I’d happily re-do the sequel to RoboCop, especially part three; part two wasn’t that bad. Terminator 1 & 2 are some of the best sci-fi action films ever made, and I would’ve had some fun with a part three or four.”

Shae loves indie filmmaking, though no director would turn down a lot more money for any given project. “There’s nothing worse than watching a big, expensive action movie where you don’t care what’s happening.”

Alien Addiction is out on iTunes, Amazon Prime, YouTube Movies, and more. So, what’s next for Shae? “I have three other dynamite movies. I’m looking to settle on one of them.”

Is Alien Addiction on your watch list?

Thanks to Shae Sterling and October Coast
for making this interview possible.

Want to read more interviews? CLICK HERE.

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Ruben Diaz
Writer, film-fanatic, geek, gamer, info junkie & consummate Devil's advocate who has been fascinated by Earth since 1976. Classically trained in the ways of the future.

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